The seven year old sat glued to the TV.
This was the first summer he had watched organised cricket. He had played it for hours with the other children who lived in the compound on the sub-continent, until he watched the first test at the WACA he had not seen it at this level. Visiting his Grandparents in Australia, he had watched the TV with interest for as much of the tests in Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide as his parents (and grandparents) would allow.
Another over passed unscathed. A few more to the total, but it was still unlikely…
This match was different. His grandparents had taken him to see the second day of play live. England had been bowled out just on stumps the night before and the Aussies were batting. He had ridden the highs and lows of the day – his hero was out hooking first ball, but the wicketkeeper had scored a fifty to go with a couple of others from the batsmen. Like the Englishmen the previous day, they were all out right on stumps, a princely lead of three runs on the first innings.
A streaky shot and a few more to the total. There was just a possibility that they could what had seemed impossible.
The English second innings saw a third straight day where the innings finished just on stumps. England had been in trouble early but a couple of partnerships had made sure they posted a reasonable total – ten more than their first innings and seven more than the Aussies only innings. The match was set up for a stellar finish.
With the field pushed back, the batsman took another comfortable single to put the number eleven on strike. Another run closer.
The Aussie second innings had swung wildly from one side to the other. First the Aussies seemed in the best position, until the opening partnership was broken and then the captain fell cheaply again. A third wicket shortly afterwards had England in the box seat. However a fourth wicket partnership of 100 had seemed to settle the result. However both batsmen were out within two runs, and another couple of wickets 17 runs later left England in dominant position. Two more wickets fell as Border was given singles so that the English team could work on the tail.
An edge for four and against all odds, these two had taken Australia within one well hit shot of victory. The boy could hardly believe what he was watching.
The final pairing had come together needing 74 runs to win. Border had been out of form all series, and Thompson was not expected to last long. England had won the match. But the two Queenslanders had other ideas. Border was under very little pressure due to the English tactic of giving him runs in an effort to get to Thompson. Thommo for his part gritted it out, and even occasionally hit a half decent shot. For the first time in the game, a team survived to stumps. More than that the last pair had halved their target: 37 still to get.
The tension was almost too much to bear. One ball was all it could take…either way.
Given that the day could end first ball, the gates were thrown open for the last day. After four days where the match had been so enthralling, 18000 people turned up to see the end. Millions more watched on TV. Border and Thompson had inched their way towards the target against the new ball.
Botham came on to bowl the 18th over of the day. Ball took the edge of Thompson’s bat. The boy’s heart went into his mouth. Dropped! … no… caught! England had won.
Tavare had dropped the catch at slip, but it had bounced up, not down, and Miller had come around behind him to complete the catch and a three run victory. All four innings had been completed with scores between 284 and 294. The match had been close throughout with the ascendancy moving backwards and forwards.
Even as a seven year old he knew that this was one of “those matches”, the extra special ones that make cricket such a joy (win or lose). He went on to watch many more of those matches- Australia and the West Indies in Adelaide 1993, The Ashes in Adelaide in 2006, Australia and Pakistan in Hobart in 1999, Trent Bridge 2013 just to mention a few- But it was the first of these that sealed his love for cricket.